Circle the Wagons and Shoot Inward

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Does this describe your company’s culture? 

One of the funniest phrases I’ve ever heard  – and I first heard this one about 20 years ago – to describe an organization’s culture was to “circle the wagons and shoot inward.” You have to think about it for about a half a second, but then you say, “Oooooh, that’s not a good thing.” And it’s not funny, either.

The concept of circling the wagons in any culture is bad enough, but to shoot inward? Unbelievable. But it happens.

Haven’t heard this saying before? It’s a bit of a blame game, and then some. This is describes it: One of the most unifying factors for a group is having a common enemy. Often the purpose of business associations is to unite against some common enemy or threat. If so, that is where the energies should be focused – to shoot outwards and not inwards.

The original premise behind circling the wagons is to rally against some “common enemy,” but I’d like to add that in your company, you might (hopefully) circle the wagons (unify) for some common cause or purpose – for good, not for some enemy or threat. That would be ideal.

Sometimes, though, companies circle the wagons and focus their energies on the wrong thing, don’t focus on anything important, come together for the wrong internal cause, find a common enemy within, compete against themselves, compete internally against each other, etc.

What happens when they circle the wagons and shoot inward? It’s exhausting. And quite toxic.

What does that look like? It’s like an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, thinking it’s an antigen. Quite simply, the culture and the employee experience are a mess.

·         Creativity is stifled

·         Empowerment is non-existent

·         Leaders don’t talk to employees

·         There’s no transparency

·         Vagueness rules the day

·         Shareholders take priority

·         Employees aren’t appreciated

·         Failure is not an option; instead, it’s punished

·         Politics are rampant

·         Employees don’t support each other

·         There’s backstabbing

·         Micromanagement is the norm

·         The organization is siloed/silos prevail

·         No one wants to work together

·         There’s a lack of purpose and vision or neither is communicated/shared

·         Positive efforts are derailed by the negativity

·         Internal competitiveness and rivalries abound

·         There’s disagreement about goals and outcomes

·         Cross-functional relationships are defined as “infighting”

·         Organizational alignment is unheard of

As a result…

·         Employees are disengaged

·         Turnover is high 

·         The culture is toxic

·         The customer experience suffers

·         And so does the business

Ultimately, we should work together, toward a common goal. A solid goal for the good of the business and for customers. A shared, communicated goal. A goal that everyone can rally around, in a good way. In order to do so, leaders must get everyone on the same page – circle the wagons for the greater good – with regard to the company’s…

·         Purpose

·         Vision

·         Values

·         Brand promise

·         Goals

·         Expectations

·         Customer Experience

Circling the wagons and rallying the troops for a common cause means that the business will focus on its own success rather than on infighting and CYA (cover your ass) tactics. Isn’t it better when everyone has a clear line of sight to what the business is trying to achieve – and everyone rallies (together) to ensure that the business achieves those goals and wins?

Have you seen this occur in any company for which you’ve worked?

Petty infighting and political agendas, arrogance, and sheer bloody-mindedness almost guarantees that the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. –Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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